30 October 2016 Words like a broken kettledrum – senses at the Conrad Festival
Richard Flanagan: “All words are like a broken kettledrum, used by us in an attempt to play some rhythms. We play them and desire that the stars would feel sorry for us.”
Michel Cunningham: “Just a side note: We strike the drum only so that the bear would dance for us. Every bear tamer knows this.”
It was like a meeting of good friends. “I know you would rather see a brawl”, Michael Cunningham penitently admitted at the end. The two literary giants met on stage to share what they learned by writing in a discussion with Magdalena Heydel. It looked more or less like this:
Cunningham: “Once I saw something impossible, and I did not talk about it with anyone. It was not a sphere of light in the sky, but something very similar. I wanted to name it in my novel. What do you do, when you see something that totally undermines your perception of reality? What do you do when you are not a believer, and yet you experience a revelation?” Flanagan: “Once, during a kayaking trip I fell into water. I suffered from hypothermia and I saw a light. It was a very intense experience, that I never described anywhere”. Cunningham: I have deep respect for the diversity of language. We clash with limitations, we are trying to name things that cannot be named with words, so that we only get partially close.” Flanagan: “All great novels are great disappointments at the same time, since they only partially express what the author wanted to say.” Cunningham: “The original work is a translation all in itself. A translation of an ideal book, the one that you have in your head”.